28 Feb 2023

Gloriavale: Howard Temple rejects that leaders imposing faith in God through ignorance

7:39 pm on 28 February 2023
Howard Temple.

Howard Temple has been cross-examined about Gloriavale's doctrine of separation at the Employment Court. Photo: RNZ / Nathan McKinnon

Gloriavale's Overseeing Shepherd has rejected assertions the leaders impose their faith in God on the Christian community's children through isolation and ignorance.

Howard Temple has been cross-examined at length about Gloriavale's doctrine of separation at the Employment Court, which heard girls and boys effectively live behind a remote "mountain wall" and are shielded from simple fun like a game of rugby.

Six former Gloriavale women claim they worked long hours doing domestic duties under an all-pervading regime of control and are seeking a ruling they were community employees, rather than volunteers.

The women's barrister Brian Henry questioned Temple about the doctrine detailed in the community's foundational document, What We Believe.

Temple told the court Gloriavale's structure was designed to keep young people in the community and agreed "to a degree" that its teachings limited their ability to be part of the outside world.

He rejected Henry's assertion the leaders were imposing faith in God through ignorance.

"Not through ignorance no. I want to impose it on them, but not through ignorance," Temple said.

"But they're totally ignorant of the world and worldliness aren't they?" Henry asked. "No they're not," Temple replied.

"You keep them shielded from a simple thing like a game of rugby, don't you?" Henry asked. "Competitive sport with the outside people, yes," Temple said.

"And you keep them separated because you know that is a contagion because they just might enjoy the life?"

"They just might do that, yes," Temple said.

"I do not want them to leave the community and go to the outside."

When asked if the community was deliberately keeping parents and their children from making an informed choice about their lives, Temple replied: "I do not agree with that 100 percent."

The court heard Gloriavale pre-schoolers were taught games like Simon Says and Follow the Leader to foster unity, while films were edited by leaders to omit sex acts, foul language and "angry killing", and music with a beat was banned.

Brian Henry questioned Howard Temple about a booklet handed out at community events under Hopeful Christian's leadership describing a "special responsibility to win the many children whom God has given us".

"The way you're winning them, is you're isolating them," Henry said.

"I wouldn't put it exactly that way. We evangelise them, yes, we teach them," Temple replied.

"But you've got them sitting up at the base of the mountain range dividing New Zealand and they have no access to the outside world, except what you approve, is that right?" Henry asked.

"That is right," he said.

Temple later conceded the women who have brought the case were not educated to a standard that would give them any real chance of a place in the world.

Witnesses have previously testified they felt trapped at Gloriavale and were threatened with the risk of eternal damnation if they ever left the commune at Lake Haupiri.

Temple agreed that was an "incredible threat" because of their faith and a powerful means of keeping someone in the community.

But he said it was wrong to claim Gloriavale's leaders were responsible for all of the community's failings.

"You are trying to pin all the problems and all the issues and faults on the leadership. There are parents there, there are 82 families there... and they're not all there out of fear," he said.

"It's not just the leadership running this whole thing out there."

Howard Temple became the Christian community's Overseeing Shepherd after the death of its founder Hopeful Christian in 2018.

He conceded he had not accomplished much change with a different leadership style by the time the last of the plaintiffs left Gloriavale in 2021 because of the community's conservative nature.

"I could have gone in there as soon as he died and said we're changing this and we're changing that, but I would have created more problems than I would have solved," he said.

"I could have done it quicker, but I didn't."

Witnesses have testified about unwanted attention from Temple, but he previously told the court there was nothing sexual about his hugs or comforting arm around girls' shoulders.

On Tuesday, he said he now understood girls would feel powerless to complain about a leader.

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